“Lib Dems declare war on the rich” (front page headline, 28 January)? I don’t think so
Let’s put the £2bn which would be raised by the “mansion tax” against the billions that Royal Bank of Scotland has received from the taxpayer and uses to fund its payment of bonuses. Let’s compute how much certain people are being paid in order that they might benefit from tax relief on a million-pound pension contribution.
“War” would be an 80 per cent tax rate, a huge hike in death duties and a flat refusal to countenance any form of bonus payment in any business in which the taxpayer had a stake. But then “Lib Dems Tip-Toe Up On The Rich, Pull A Very Stern Face and Run Away Again” isn’t much of a headline, is it?
Alan Wilkinson, Durham
A Lib Dem “war on the rich”? After five years as part of a government which systematically wages war on the poor, it would at least make a change.
Mike Wright, Nuneaton, Warwickshire
Britain and Europe: decision time
In 2015 we may well have a referendum with a simple in/out option over the UK’s membership of the EU. It is generally assumed that if it goes to the “out” option, the UK would still want to enjoy the benefits of membership of the outer-ring of countries that enjoy a free trade relationship with the EU. Norway and Switzerland spring to mind.
I understand that both Norway and Switzerland have had to accept many if not all of the “Brussels restrictions” on their local laws and practices. Some examples include the Working Time Drective, health and safety regulations in work and adherence to the authority of the European Court of Human Rights, so despised by the Tories and Ukip.
Obviously, members of this “outer circle” get no votes in Brussels, but conversely, as long as they adhere to the EU’s rules they can still trade and don’t have to pay a “membership fee”.
With the exception of the monies paid to the EU, would the strictures applied to the UK, so ranted about by the Eurosceptics, be much different?
Tim Brook, Bristol
It is time the other EU member states told the UK to stop whingeing and leave.
I say this with much regret. I am a committed European and have worked for Europe all my life, but after hearing George Osborne’s recent speech I have to conclude that the gap is too wide to bridge.
The telling phrase is “The EU was sold to our country [as a European Economic Community]”. Nobody ever tried to sell the UK anything. It signed up voluntarily. But ever since it did, commentators have implied some kind of devious plot to trick the UK into becoming “European” against its will. Since the will is clearly not there, the UK should bow out.
It will be a relief to be free of all the silly scare stories about influxes of Romanians – 30 since the New Year – and the demise of the euro, which seems to be out-performing the pound at the moment. We will be spared the embarrassment of British politicians and MEPs offending their foreign counterparts – always in English, never in a foreign language. It will be fun watching the Brits queue for visas at Calais. And all those of us living abroad may have to go back “home”, placing extra burdens on the NHS – or whatever it will be called.
The tragedy is that if the UK had played an active and positive role right from the beginning, it might have helped create a union more to its liking. Instead, it has spent the last 40 years sniping from the sidelines. Everyone lost patience long ago. They should stop being so accommodating.
Dave Skinner, Tervuren, Belgium
Past and future of flooded Somerset
Once upon a time, though less than a thousand years ago, the Somerset Levels were in their “natural” state.
That is, they were swampland, frequently flooded not only by rain but by seawater from the Bristol Channel, with people living just on “islands” (such as Muchelney), pasturing their animals on the low land in the summer if and when it dried out. Indeed, “Somerset” is thought to mean “Land of the summer people”.
Then mediaeval monks and, later on, others, thought it would be a good idea to drain this land, first to provide canals for transport and then to be able to grow things on it. This was done piecemeal, and over the centuries no one could decide the best way to carry out the work, or who should pay for it. Many, many reports were written on the subject, and most were shelved under the force of inertia.
Only under the pressure of the needs of defence in the Second World War was the last major work done, in 1940, when the artificial Huntspill River was created, providing a straight and wide drain to the sea. (Michael Williams’ 1970 Draining of the Somerset Levels – still in print – is a fascinating account of all this, and includes some valuable commentary on the situation these days.)
Once again we have delays, disagreements, and squabbles over who should pay for drainage work on the Somerset Moors and Levels, to give them their proper name. Nothing new there.
And it’s only a question of time before sea level rising will mean that nature will win and put them back to their “natural” state.
I do hope that someone with the common sense of Cnut is drawing up a medium-term plan to ensure that the inevitable suffering there is to come may be minimised. But sadly politicians don’t think medium-term.
Venetia Caine, Glastonbury, Somerset
Baffled by butterflies
I am generally comfortable with Guy Keleny’s pedantry and his column is often one of my first reads. However, his final piece on 25 January does itself warrant correction.
Butterflies are neither born nor hatched. Schoolboy biology should have informed him that butterflies emerge from pupae, not eggs; they undergo metamorphosis when changing from their larval form. Their full life cycle is therefore egg, larva, pupa, imago.
Jonathan Colley, Rugby
Nothing silly about these Tories
Bang goes another myth. Here was I under the impression that serious Tories lacked a sense of humour, and then I read this in your article (28 January) about the goings on in Thirsk and Malton: “A prominent local told the Yorkshire Post that their MP is a ‘silly girl’ – when the constituency needs someone like Boris Johnson or Nigel Farage.”
Ray Black, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Protest against annoying jargon
I was delighted to see the photograph (29 January) of a woman displaying a religious picture at a demonstration in Kiev. A caption might combine two of the most used and most annoying words – it is “literally iconic”.
Pauline Grayson, Manchester
Dangerous bonfire of regulations
David Cameron trumpets his abolition of 800 or so supposedly unnecessary regulations in business and industry. If they are as useless as he makes out, it seems worthwhile to ask why they existed in the first place.
Two so far identified are the removal of the need to obtain a poisons licence for oven cleaners and of the licence for food handling for childminders. Evidently Eton failed to teach Mr Cameron much science. Any mixture of cleaners applied to a heat source, such as an oven, carries the risk of producing highly noxious gases such as chlorine. It’s ironic that this danger should arise, effectively with official permission, in the centenary year of the first World War, in which chlorine gas claimed many lives.
Removing the need for childminders to obtain a food-handling licence ignores the troublingly frequent incidence in recent times of outbreaks of serious digestive illnesses such as E. coli. These outbreaks have occurred unduly often in nurseries and kindergartens.
A more short-sighted rush to deregulate is difficult to envisage. Health and safety concerns are completely overlooked. On this principle, perhaps it is just as well that one of Mr Cameron’s predecessors, Mrs Thatcher, closed the mining industry. The Davy lamp might just as readily have been cast aside as a useless encumbrance to profit. Who else is to be sacrificed to this sort of ideology?
Michael Igoe, Esh Winning, Co Durham
Hedgerow Regulations, which reports say David Cameron will scrap, are what stop fields being turned into American-style prairies. The fewer than 20 pages of regulations can hardly be called red tape. If the scrapping goes ahead, Cameron’s lasting reputation will be as the prime minister who destroyed the British landscape with prairies and wind farms.
Dr Philip Sullivan, Frolesworth, Leicestershire